Saturday, November 12, 2016

The FCC under Trump -- a long shot

Tom Wheeler surprised us as head of the Federal Communication Commission -- might Trump?

Obama and Roberts
In May 2013, President Obama picked Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communication Commission. The Internet community generally disapproved because Wheeler had been a lobbyist for both the cellular and cable industries and a major contributor to the Obama campaign. Internet service providers AT&T and Comcast lauded the appointment and a few months later, the President was spotted playing golf with Brian Roberts, chief executive of Comcast.

It looked like a Washington insider deal.

But after looking at Wheeler's blog posts and his service on a Presidential commission, I speculated that Wheeler might be a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and, by August 2013, we had mounting evidence that Wheeler was in fact acting in the public interest, not that of the ISP industry.

Now that Donald Trump has been elected President, the Internet community is understandably worried. There is speculation that Trump will reverse Wheeler's stance on network neutrality and he has chosen Jeffrey Eisenach, an (often paid) oponent of regulation as his telecommunication "point man." (You can see his testimony on net neutrality here).

Obama and Wheeler
That seems consistent with Trump's promise to get rid of red tape and regulation and let big business do its thing, but using the words "Trump" and "consistent" in the same sentence is oxymoronic. He also promises to fight the elites in support of ordinary people. That would seem to call for pro-competitive measures to weaken the grip of the Internet service giants.

Tom Wheeler surprised industry insiders by supporting net neutrality, raising the speed used to define "broadband," fighting to curb state legislature power to stop municipal broadband, pushing for a standard TV-interface box combining the functions of today's set-top boxes and Internet interfaces, favoring sharing of Federal spectrum and scrutinizing transit Internet agreements.

Will Donald Trump surprise us and work to make the American Internet Great Again?

(I doubt it, but, if Trump can be elected president, anything is possible).